A possible role for ghrelin, leptin, brain-derived neurotrophic factor and docosahexaenoic acid in reducing the quality of life of coeliac disease patients following a gluten-free diet
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A gluten-free diet (GFD) has been reported to negatively impact the quality of life (QoL) of coeliac disease (CD) patients. The gut–brain axis hormones ghrelin and leptin, with the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), may affect QoL of CD patients undergoing GFD. Our aims were to evaluate whether: (a) the circulating concentrations of leptin, ghrelin and BDNF in CD patients were different from those in healthy subjects; (b) GFD might induce changes in their levels; (c) BDNF Val66Met polymorphism variability might affect BDNF levels; and (d) serum BDNF levels were related to dietary docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as a neurotrophin modulator.
Nineteen adult coeliac patients and 21 healthy controls were included. A QoL questionnaire was administered, and serum concentrations of ghrelin, leptin, BDNF and red blood cell membrane DHA levels were determined at the enrolment and after 1 year of GFD. BDNF Val66Met polymorphism was analysed.
Results from the questionnaire indicated a decline in QoL after GFD. Ghrelin and leptin levels were not significantly different between groups. BDNF levels were significantly (p = 0.0213) lower in patients after GFD (22.0 ± 2.4 ng/ml) compared to controls (31.2 ± 2.2 ng/ml) and patients at diagnosis (25.0 ± 2.5 ng/ml). BDNF levels correlated with DHA levels (p = 0.008, r = 0.341) and the questionnaire total score (p = 0.041, r = 0.334).
Ghrelin and leptin seem to not be associated with changes in QoL of patients undergoing dietetic treatment. In contrast, a link between BDNF reduction and the vulnerability of CD patients to psychological distress could be proposed, with DHA representing a possible intermediate.
KeywordsBDNF Coeliac disease DHA Gluten-free diet Ghrelin Leptin Psychological distress
The authors thank Dr. Benedetta D’Attoma and Dr. Manuela Martulli (IRCCS “Saverio de Bellis”) for their precious technical assistance.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
CF discloses her position as partner of Lipinutragen srl. The other authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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